Count on Coal: Innovation Not Elimination! What’s Up with AK Road Work?

In Home, News by wp_sysadmin

Today’s Key Takeaways: Carbon storage and the future of coal. 10 reasons the world can’t run without fossil fuels. Warm winter leads to decade-low natural gas prices. A view of Alaska road construction and federal funding from Senate Transportation committee chair.


Alaska legislators give closer look at bill aimed at storing carbon emissions underground
Stefan Milkowski, Alaska Beacon, February 19, 2024

Combined with generous federal subsidies, the bill could enable enhanced oil recovery, sequestration of emissions from new coal-fired power

Alaska legislators are considering a bill proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy last year to store carbon emissions, which could have implications from Cook Inlet to the North Slope. According to industry experts, it could allow a wide range of new opportunities and enable the continuation of existing ones. 

House Bill 50, the Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Act, would allow the state to lease subsurface rights for the purpose of storing carbon dioxide, the largest contributor to human-caused climate warming. 

Combined with generous federal subsidies, the bill could enable everything from enhanced oil recovery using carbon dioxide to the sequestration of emissions from new coal-fired power generation to removing carbon dioxide directly from the air. According to a consultant hired by the state, a carbon capture framework could even make it economic for the state to export North Slope natural gas not as gas but as hydrogen or ammonia, with the carbon dioxide from processing sequestered underground. 

The legislation could also help maintain existing fossil fuel production and justify new development amid pressure to reduce carbon emissions. 

“Innovation, rather than elimination, is the future of coal,” Usibelli Coal Mine executive Lorali Simon wrote in a letter of support for the bill. 



10 Reasons Why the World Can’t Run Without Fossil Fuel
Gail Tverberg, OilPrice.Com, February 15, 2024

  • Banks, governments, and businesses would face failure due to the essential role of fossil fuels in the economy.
  • Critical infrastructure like electricity, internet, and trade systems would collapse without fossil fuel support.
  • Agriculture and home heating would become inefficient and inaccessible to many, leading to widespread social upheaval.

It is now popular to talk about leaving fossil fuels to prevent climate change. Pretty much the same result occurs if we run short of fossil fuels: We lose fossil fuels, but it is because we cannot extract them. Practically no one tells us about the extent to which the current system depends upon fossil fuels, however.

The economy is extraordinarily dependent on fossil fuels. If there are not enough fossil fuels to go around, there is likely to be fighting over what is available. Some countries are likely to get far more than their fair share, while the rest of the world’s population will be left with very little or no fossil fuels.

If losing fossil fuels completely, or nearly completely, is a risk for some of the world’s population, it might be useful to think through some of the things that go wrong. The following are some of my ideas about things that change, mostly for the worse, in a fossil fuel-deprived economy.



Warm Winter Drags U.S. Natural Gas Prices to Three-Decade Low
Tsvetana Paraskova, OilPrice.Com, February 19, 2024

  • Warmer winter temperatures in the U.S. have led to reduced demand for natural gas, resulting in a surplus and pushing prices to their lowest levels in 30 years.
  • Despite record production levels, major producers are cutting back on drilling activity in response to the oversupply and low prices.
  • With high inventory levels and reduced withdrawals from storage, analysts predict a prolonged period of low natural gas prices until the end of the winter season.

One of the warmest winters on record in the United States has created a natural gas glut, dragging benchmark gas prices to their lowest levels in three decades and prompting producers, who were pumping at record rates, to scale back drilling activity.

The front-month U.S. benchmark price at the Henry Hub settled on Friday at its lowest level since 1995 – except for a few days during peak pandemic in 2020.


What’s Up with Alaska Road Construction and Federal Funding?

Alaska’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) recently got rejected by the Federal Government agencies responsible for review and approval of the plan, the FHWA and FTA. We received a letter on Monday, February 12, noting the rejection alongside a detailed finding list. You can read those here:

The Federal Highway Administration’s STIP Finding Transmittal Letter

FHWA’s Detailed Finding List with Corrective Actions

Note: The STIP is the state’s four-year program for transportation system preservation and development. It includes interstate, state and some local highways, bridges, ferries, and public transportation, but does not include airports or non-ferry-related ports and harbors.

If you look at the linked documents above you can see that there are many findings, but I believe they can be grouped into a few main categories. Lack of coordination with local planning organizations was the largest category that stood out to everybody. Quotes in news articles noted “no coordination” between the state and local planning organizations for Anchorage and Fairbanks. Other categories are the inclusion of projects that had cost increases exceeding federal guidelines, new projects not integrated into a ‘transportation system,’ projects misrepresenting fund sources, and a number of misattributed federal grants.

We are the only state to receive such a rejection this year. However, in response to many extreme reactions, it is my opinion that Alaska DOT will return a revised STIP within the required timeframe and fix many of the major issues that were noted in the findings report. It is still early in the notification and response process so I can’t speak to the specific ramifications, but it is my understanding that DOT will remove highly contested projects and move forward with the first tranche of federally approved projects while continuing to negotiate further additions to the STIP.

As the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, this topic is of extreme importance to me. This year and last year, we held hearings specifically focused on the planning process and STIP development (see topics and links below). A major question that I have now is what changed! Did the development process change or the assessment process change? It is my understanding that this may be more of a planning process issue, but there may be some minor assessment issues with regards to high-visibility projects.

1/31/2023 Federal Funding and Planning for the Future:

2/14/2023 Strategic Investment Decisions and Transportation Planning Data:

8/22/2023 (Joint Senate and House) Alaska’s Modern STIP:

As you can see, we followed the development process over the full year, but DOT hadn’t led on that there were major issues. The Senate Transportation intends to have another hearing focused on the STIP and the issues, but I want to allow DOT to put all available resources towards fixing and resubmitting the current plan. As soon as we can rest assured that Alaska’s construction season will move forward, we will look for ways to provide any systemic fixes that are needed so that this doesn’t happen again.

From Senator James Kaufman, Chair, Senate Transportation Committee